A Brief History of the Wyckoff Free Public Library – continued


In 1925 circulation reached 607. Circulation declined the following year owing to scarlet fever and measles epidemics which required closure of the library. The acquisition in 1927 of “Elmer Gantry” by Sinclair Lewis resulted in raised eyebrows and a waiting list to borrow it. Patrons also sought out volumes donated by John Ackerson, who developed a reputation as one who knew good books. A site on Wyckoff Avenue was considered for the home of a larger, future library, but the trustees took no action. Later, the corner of Highland and Everett also appears in the minutes as a possible future location; again, no progress was made.

In 1926 the residents of Wyckoff voted (243 to 94) to rename as the “Township of Wyckoff” what was left of Franklin Township following the absorption of Wortendyke into Midland Park and the creation of the Borough of Franklin Lakes to the west. The library received no municipal funding and lived hand-to-mouth on donations, which hampered the growth of the building fund, which was at times raided to pay day-to-day expenses. The Wyckoff Women’s Club, successor to the Women’s Work Committee, became the major fundraiser. In the 1930s, circulation declined, and the trustees attributed the decline to the advent of the radio and the popularity of motion pictures. (In subsequent eras, television and the Internet would be the villains.) In 1937, lack of funds reduced new book acquisitions. Librarian Frederick complained to the trustees that our readers had read all the books available. The expenses for 1937 included $315 for Mrs. Frederick, $168 for rent, $36 for janitorial services, $7.05 for supplies, and $17.94 for coal and wood.

In 1938 the library trustees sought to enlist the Township Committee in a plan to include a wing for the library in a future municipal building. The population of the town at the time was about 3,500 and 100 families were still involved in farming. In November 1941, the library board rented a store front on Franklin Avenue to achieve a long-overdue increase in space, tripling its square footage. Rent was $240 a year. The library board also began to lobby the Township Committee for municipal funding of the library. The first municipal contribution to the library budget came in 1942, 21 years after its founding, and was $300 annually (the total municipal budget at the time was about $75,000). The library also purchased insurance. Library hours expanded to include Friday evenings. In what would become a more-or-less constant negotiation until permanent sources of library funding were established, in 1943 the library board asked the township committee to increase its annual contribution to $500. The first state funding formula for municipal libraries had been established in 1894, but it would only apply to the Wyckoff Library if it ceased its status as non-profit association and became a municipally run operation. The township committee refused to make the library a town service and instead agreed only to contribute $450 in 1944, $750 in 1946, and $900 in 1948, which was still less than 50% of the library budget.

Sigrid Lambert became librarian in 1940, and would serve for 16 years. By 1944, there were 5,600 titles in the collection. The library installed an out-of-hours book-receiving box at the police station next store. The Parent Teachers Association donated an encyclopedia. In 1947, as the post-war building boom got underway, Mrs. E.O. Lunde, known as an excellent reader and story-teller, began the first children’s story hour in 1947. The story hour was periodically suspended because of epidemics. In 1949, the Library Guild, a key fundraiser for the library, was formally established.

As the township mulled plans to construct a new municipal building, the library trustees sought to make a wing for the library part of the plans, but the Township Committee refused. In 1952 the Library Guild donated a new oil burner and furnish[ed] the [existing] library with a new large cooling fan for summer comfort [Piekema, p. 39]. The Lions Club and the Community Club also raised money for the library, and the Township increased its contribution to $1,650 in 1953. Circulation increased very slowly because space constraints limited the number of new titles which could be added. Grace Chewning began a column called “Easy Reading” about the library in the Wyckoff News in 1953; her enthusiastic reporting would continue for a decade. Ms. Chewning became librarian in 1956 and served for eight years.

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